Hurricanes are extremely powerful forces of nature and should never be taken lightly. Building codes are constantly becoming stronger and more defined in order to prevent structural damage to buildings as much as possible. Any time a hurricane makes landfall to an area, forensic engineering takes over to assess the structural damage. Some buildings and homes may seem like they were unharmed, while others may be completely destroyed. The role of a structural forensic engineer is to confirm probable cause or origin and to determine the extent of structural damage as a result.

What Happens in a Structural Damage Assessment

When structural damage is assessed after a hurricane, there are both big picture views and detailed views that must be taken into consideration. In the big picture, experts may take an aerial view of a particular area to see the widespread damage. In a detailed picture, a structural forensic engineer will analyze an existing structure, usually a building or home, and make an onsite assessment of their current condition after the weather event. The foundation walls, the building frame, the building roof and facade are all major structural systems that must be evaluated to determine current condition after the storm.  Once this is complete, a structural engineer will usually prepare a report documenting his or her findings while onsite and final conclusions thereafter. All components of a particular structure are assessed to better protect the buildings in the future.

The Role of Structural Engineers in Hurricane Damage Assessments

There are many challenges a structural forensic engineer faces during a hurricane damage assessment. Since the damage caused by a hurricane could be in the form of wind, rain, flooding or other flying objects, the engineer must be able to determine the sole cause of the damage to a location. Damage to a roof is caused by wind most of the time, but interior damage may be caused by water. A structural engineer must be able to assess all of the damage to know what construction methods and materials can be used in the future to prevent similar damage.

Preventing Damage in The Future

Following a hurricane structural damage assessment, forensic engineering experts will analyze their findings to determine the best ways to prevent damage in the future. The role of underground homes may play a significant role in the near or distant future, as these homes will generally be less vulnerable to hurricane damage. However, these underground homes likely won’t be prominent in the United States for several decades, so experts are constantly looking for ways to improve building codes to prevent structural damage to buildings as much as possible.

BE Structural has an experienced team of forensic structural engineers who are ready to assess structural damage after any hurricane makes landfall. We use these assessments in our own construction and renovation projects to ensure the safest and most effective materials are used. To learn more about the process of hurricane structural damage assessments or other structural concerns, contact us at any time.